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Deputy Prosecutor General resigns over “lawlessness”, spurs power reload

Vitaliy Kasko
Deputy Prosecutor General resigns over “lawlessness”, spurs power reload
Article by: Anastasiia Chornohorska
Edited by: Alya Shandra

Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity was followed by number of new faces appearing in the country’s political and state machine. Much hope was laid on their abilities to facilitate reforms and build a new Ukraine. Unfortunately, the resistance of the old system was so huge that some of them decided to leave their positions. on February 16, the key reformer of the Prosecutor General’s Office Vitaliy Kasko decided to quit because of total corruption and lawlessness in the structure. 

Young reformer in the Prosecutor General’s office

Vitaliy Kasko became a Deputy Prosecutor General in May 2014. During the Euromaidan events, he was an attorney for the victims of clashes and a human rights activist. When he came to the Prosecutor General’s Office, society believed that he and his team can provide effective reforms in the structure. In the Prosecutor General’s Office, Vitaliy Kasko was in charge of international cooperation. At the same time, he was an irreconcilable fighter against corruption and tried to implement reforms in the prosecution system. In particular, Kasko tried to return international assets of Yanukovych and his supporters to Ukraine. However, the Deputy Prosecutor faced with pressure from the Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin and his associates. It was nearly impossible to implement the necessary reforms and this fact was visible to the Western partners. The USA and Europe invested many resources into reforms, and they were disappointed with the result.

Resonant resignation because of total corruption and lawlessness

On 15 February 2016, Vitaliy Kasko spoke at the press-conference dedicated to the investigation of the notorious criminal case of the so-called “diamond prosecutors.” The case involved two high-ranking prosecutors, namely Volodymyr Shapakin and Oleksandr Korniyets, who is a close friend of Viktor Shokin. There he announced his resignation. As Vitaliy Kasko explained in his report, he does not wish to be part of a state structure where arbitrariness, total lawlessness, and pressure on prosecutors are tolerated, and positions are held by the followers of the Yanukovych’s times Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka.

“The last straw was the yet another redistribution of authority within the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine. Shokin has taken away all the functions and tools to investigate and control proceedings in cases initiated by our team, including the case of the so-called ‘diamond prosecutors.’ However, the reasons why it is no longer possible and meaningful to work at the General Prosecutor’s Office lie much deeper,” said Kasko.
Vitaliy Kasko’s report on resignation

Kasko’s resignation followed the resignation of another key reformer, Economy Minister Aivaras Abromavicius on 3 February 2016. In his letter, Kasko cited corruption and the inability to conduct reforms as the reason for his resignation. 10 Western foreign ministers to Ukraine reacted by releasing a letter in which they stated they were “deeply disappointed” by his decision to resign. This resignation, while disappointing enthusiasts of Ukraine’s reforms, was assessed to have a chance of creating the kind of pressure on Poroshenko that Ukrainian reformers want.

Reaction to the resignation

The same day as Vitaliy Kasko has made his statement about corruption and lawlessness, another prosecutor from the Prosecutor General’s Office Vladyslav Kutsenko condemned Kasko’s words. Kutsenko claimed that those statements, as well as Kasko’s earlier actions, are made only for his “promotion.”

The next day after Kasko’s report the Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin has accepted the resignation. “A decision has been made. An order to accept Kasko’s resignation from the Deputy Prosecutor General’s Office has already been signed,“ Prosecutor of the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine Vladyslav Kutsenko wrote on Facebook.

Western polititions and reformators inside Ukraine received the resignation of Vitaliy Kasko negatively. The USA Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt commented that Kasko’s resignation is a blow to Ukraine’s reform progress. However, the USA will continue assisting those in prosecutorial domain committed to operating under new rules, he added. The Ambassador announced these statements in his twitter account.

According to the Reanimation Package of Reforms statement, resignation of Vitaliy Kasko “negates the expectations of the Ukrainian society, the reformists in government, the experts, and the international partners to implement the reform of the prosecutor’s office in Ukraine.” In addition, they stress that the Prosecutor’s Office has become a major reason of public disbelief in the justice and the possibility of changes and according to the latest public opinion poll, only 7% of the citizens trust the Prosecutor’s Office.

Thus, there is an urgent need in reforms in the Prosecutor General’s Office in Ukraine. Only the total reload of the system can make reforms effective. The resignation of those people, who were trying to implement reforms, should mean for Ukrainian authorities that in case they still want to receive support from the EU and the USA, they have to act immediately.

Poroshenko offers Shokin and Prime Minister Yatseniuk to resign

The next day, as the necessary 150 signatures were being gathered for a “no-confidence” vote on the Cabinet of Ministers in the Parliament, Ukrainian President Poroshenko issued an appeal to both Prosecutor General Shokin and Prime Minister Yatseniuk to resign. At the time of publication, Shokin had already submitted a letter of resignation to the President.

Edited by: Alya Shandra
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